Yesterday morning’s report that the owner of the Columbus Crew, one of the most historically popular MLS franchises, was set to announce that he’d move the team to Austin if he didn’t get a new stadium was a bit weird and unexpected. Then team owner Anthony Precourt made his announcement, and things got so much weirder and unexpecteder:
- Precourt’s actual statement was vague about what he was looking for, saying only that the Crew’s “current course is not sustainable,” that “we have no choice but to expand and explore all of our options,” and that “MLS in Austin could be an ideal fit.” That covers the first two of the six steps in the stadium-grubbers’ playbook: the obsolescence claim and the non-threat threat.
- The Crew issued a letter to fans saying, in effect, Thank you for your support and sorry about this, but it’s not you, it’s us. Please buy playoff tickets.
- Franklin County Commissioner John O’Grady said that Precourt never actually asked for help with a new Columbus stadium, but only said he needed “a better location.” O’Grady told the Columbus Dispatch: “If he needs a Downtown stadium, he should have said something. That’s a weird negotiating ploy.”
- Austin Mayor Steve Adler emailed the Dispatch to say that he’d love to host the Crew, but “I don’t think there’s support for public funding of a stadium.”
All this points to an owner who either really really wants to move the Crew to Austin no matter what and is using this whole “my stadium sucks” argument as an excuse, or is really really bad at this whole stadium money shakedown thing. Either way, it sucks for Crew fans, who are now facing losing their team to one of the few media markets that’s actually even smaller than Columbus. “I don’t understand the obsession with Austin,” supporters’ club organizer Kevin Glenn told the Dispatch. That makes a whole lot of us.